Sierra Lutheran High School’s expansion plans include a 13,000-square-foot multi-use addition to its campus with new classrooms, a science lab, multi-use space and an Academic Learning Center.
Sierra Lutheran High School, a private college preparatory school with a current enrollment of about 125 students, has announced it is planning to expand its facilities during an open house event for prospective families Tuesday.
Executive Director Brian Underwood hosted about 20 in all to the high school campus at 3601 Romans Road. The event was a chance for families to view the opportunities the school offers incoming students seeking an alternative to public education through a guided tour. Underwood offered a brief overview of the upcoming 18-month construction plans to add onto Sierra Lutheran’s facilities.
Underwood, formerly the school’s director of development, said the process began with a planning study about a year and a half ago with two priorities in mind when it began a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to expand.
“We’ve been blessed with strong support so far,” he said.
The master plan expansion, called Phase 2a for fall 2022, includes a 13,000-square-foot, multi-use addition to its existing campus. The add-on will feature upgraded classrooms, a new science lab, multi-use space and an Academic Learning Center giving local students access to academic and social support services. The additional space on the north side will increase campus capacity to 200, about an additional 70 students from current numbers.
Sierra Lutheran is entering the competitive bid process now and has been working with with local Reno architect Van Woert Bigotti on the design and also has partnered with Manhard Consulting, Underwood said, saying there’s local enthusiasm for the project.
With recent guidelines on activities and the school’s small numbers, activities have been limited but ongoing. Pep rallies, dress-up days and service days have remained a part of campus life in a fun, but responsible way with proper social distancing so they still have something to remember from their time in school, Underwood noted.
“We’ve been able to have rehearsals and trainings,” he said. “Volleyball and cross country will be the first chance (for students) to compete against somebody other than themselves.
“We’ve had half-days called Falcon Fun Days. … I give our kids a lot of credit, they’ve weathered this with a lot of work, and for that matter, our staff, too.”
Underwood praised the staff as they’ve had to “teach to two audiences” trying to learn how to Zoom and keep going with their daily lessons. Students continue to show interest in athletics, and there will be 12 sports and 14 teams available this fall with eSports for those interested in gaming.
While the pandemic hasn’t been easy to work around, everyone is working especially hard now with students still taking charge of the school’s chapel services in the gym, socially distanced with masks and seating marked appropriately, Underwood said. The campus to date only has had one known case of COVID-19, and that was prior to Thanksgiving.
“I give parents a lot of the credit,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of education about if you see any signs, please keep your students at home. And the ability for those students to Zoom and watch that lecture made it really easy for the parents. … That’s been a real advantage that our students have.”
At the open house Tuesday, though, senior Maggie Immen, a current student who has been attending since August and plans to graduate this spring, was eager to encourage families that Sierra Lutheran is an excellent choice for students seeking a private school education.
Immen’s family moved from Napa, Calif. in August after losing their home there to the fires. They purchased a home in Northern Nevada and made frequent trips during the moving process.
“My brother fell in love with this school, but I did not want to go here at all, and the only reason I agreed to go was for the in-person learning,” she said, describing the challenges she faced adjusting during her family’s homebuying process, collecting what they could from Napa and living in a hotel for a short time, describing a “scary” and “hectic” week.
She described her own attempts to fit in at Sierra Lutheran overcoming her reputation as a “teacher’s pet.”
“I always stuck out at schools,” she said. “A lot of kids tend not to look at me. … Most of them grew up and went to Bethlehem Lutheran. They’ve had years and years of friends, and all of a sudden, I am the only new kid. But (the Sierra Lutheran students) welcomed me. … One of them last week said, ‘I keep forgetting you’re new this year, it feels like we’ve known you for years.’ ”
Immen said she enjoys that the students come to trust their teachers and develop at least or several interests quickly, whether it’s sports, video games or academics.
“When I was stressed about school or when life was too heavy, they helped me to take a deep breath,” she said.
Immen has been accepted to the University of Wyoming, Laramie’s honors programs. Though she hasn’t decided if she will be attending there yet, for now, she’s considering majoring in physics and minoring in English literature and pursuing a master’s degree in particle astrophysics, complete an internship or go to law school and become a constitutional attorney, she said.
“I do work very hard and I enjoy leaving my mark,” she said with a laugh.
For others who might think about Sierra Lutheran, she said, students would always find a place whatever they believe.
“I’ve always been religiously active, but before attending the school, it might have been the events of the year, whatever, but my faith has grown a ridiculous amount. I feel closer to God than I ever have before.”